Edinburg, TX–Teams of students tasked with constructing a high-rise structure in minutes work diligently and speedily. Edinburg CISD GEAR UP students huddle together intermittently as the clock keeps ticking, they are focused on collaboration and communication as they analyze where to put the next piece and look for creative ways to keep building their structure upward. They wonder if the structural integrity of their project will pass the earthquake resistance test, they race against time to build the tallest structure in the room.
You would be hard-pressed to find a room where the intensity of competition was more profound. This activity is the CAMP opening act as they realize the importance of 21st Century Skills in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education. The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) GEAR UP Program, working in partnership with the College 1st Program, developed these CAMPs to bring awareness on the importance of STEM Careers for Edinburg CISD Students. UTRGV GEAR UP outreach initiatives are immersive, rigorous, and innovative. These CAMPs operate within a context of burgeoning competition through the implementation of academic-enrichment activities combined with life-changing mentorship experiences. Improving post-secondary credential attainment across the Rio Grande Valley is a priority to UTRGV GEAR UP to develop a sturdy base of skilled workforce for the region.
“I think this [CAMP] is a huge advantage for my future, because it will help me understand and figure out what I want to be when I grow up ”, said Sidney Alvarez, Edinburg CISD GEAR UP Student.
Without question, we are at the precipice of profound change. The digital age and global integration demand new skillsets for the jobs of tomorrow and completion of a post-secondary credential has become more important than ever. For many parents in the Rio Grande Valley, a college degree has either remained elusive or seems like an unknown possibility. UTRGV GEAR UP has been working with parents across different communities in the Valley to promote the importance of a college education, define what college readiness is and actively engage them in their children’s education. These Family Sessions have been conducted by the College 1st Program through their Family Engagement Session component. “It is so important to educate parents about the different opportunities that will help their children become college-ready,” said Edinburg CISD GEAR UP parent, Claudia Savedra.
UTRGV GEAR UP and its partners are collaborating in hopes to upend this trend, increase educational attainment, and expand opportunity by providing students with a breakdown of growing careers in the STEM fields and develop those critical “soft-skills” companies are looking for in their workforce, “GEAR UP has helped me understand that after high school there’s college, and that’s where I will make my dreams come true.” Said Brianna Anaya, Edinburg CISD GEAR UP student.
Through a series of hands-on activities that allow students to step into the shoes of engineers and medical professionals for a day, students develop a comprehensive set of “soft skills” – creativity, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration – and academic skills. “I want to be able to fix the problems that previous generations of scientists only dreamt of.” Said Angel Esperanza, Edinburg CISD GEAR UP student. Interspersed within these activities are visuals and academic-enrichment content that provide students the unique educational requirements, benefits and descriptions of various STEM-related careers. “The experience I received inspired me to accomplish my goals and do something positive for the world,” said Eric Cantu, Edinburg CISD GEAR UP student.
UTRGV GEAR UP working with Brownsville ISD, Edinburg CISD and La Joya ISD are providing students a unique approach to closing post-secondary education attainment gaps, while promoting occupations and careers in the region leading to a prosperous economic development trend across the Rio Grande Valley.
Written by Roberto Diaz